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The Power Of A Single Task

The Power Of A Single Task

Are your daily routines losing meaning? Leo Babauta covers the latest tips on how to prioritize everyday tasks. Everything on your to-do list requires full concentration in order to ensure you don’t have to do them again. This blog post highlights the power behind performing one task at a time.

In the neverending rush of our day, what does one little task matter?

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It is everything.

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We speed through each task as if it’s nothing, looking already to the next task, until we collapse at the end of the day, exhausted. Having spent a day cranking through nothings.

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That’s one approach, and I’ve done it many times. But here’s another: make each task its own universe, its own specialness. Then every moment of your day is ridiculously important and wonderful and powerful.

Here’s a process for one single task, whatever you have in front of you right now:

  1. Pause and consider. Why are you doing the task? Because it’s on your list, because someone sent it to you? Or because it will make a difference in the world, help make someone’s life better? Is it a compassionate act? Is it part of a project that matters? Know why you’re doing something, and then imbue the task with that intention.
  2. Notice your fear. Sometimes, we resist a task, procrastinate on it. I mean, not you, of course. Most other people procrastinate. This procrastination is rooted in fear, and so the trick is to see the fear, to feel it in your body, to accept it as part of you and not “wrong”. Then to give it compassion, and act anyway, in the moment. Don’t let your mind run away from the task.
  3. Make the task your universe. Have you ever been reading an article (like this one) and had the urge to switch to something else? This urge pushes itself on us, all day, because of the nagging feeling that there’ssomething else we should be doing, something else more important, more fun, that we might be missing out on. Instead, forget about those something elses. Make this one task your everything, and give it the space to fill up your entire mind. Put yourself fully in this one space, and pretend there’s nothing else.
  4. Stay with the task. Even with this task becoming your universe, there will be the urge to run away. This is fear again. Don’t let it rule you. Stick with the task, even just for a couple more minutes. Be curious about it: notice its qualities, wonder how it will go if you stay with it, don’t think you know everything about it. Pay attention, and see what it’s like.
  5. Bow when you’re done. Don’t rush off to the next task, but instead pause. Create a tiny bit of space before you move on to the next thing. Wash your bowl. Check the task off your list. Breathe, and see how your body is feeling. Now consider what task you should do next, not just because it’s in your inbox or task list, but because it matters.

The Power Of A Single Task | Leo Babauta

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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